UYL report: Chelsea 4 Atletico Madrid 2

Our Under-19s sailed into the UEFA Youth League last-16 with victory against Atletico Madrid at Cobham.

Following a year’s absence from the competition, Joe Edwards’s side advance as group winners after five victories from their six group outings. Harvey St Clair proved pivotal, winning and then converting a 25th-minute spot-kick before teeing up Juan Castillo to make it 2-0 with 30 minutes on the clock.

Luke McCormick’s smart finish extended the lead before half-time, at which point the two-time winners were in complete control. Castillo added a fourth before the hour mark but Atletico scuffed some of the gloss from the scoreline with two consolation goals in the final few minutes. Nevertheless, our youngsters are in the hat for the knockout round and will find out their next opposition following the play-offs in February.

Edwards made six changes from the matchday five win away at Qarabag, handing Jon Panzo, Conor Gallagher and Daishawn Redan their first starts in the competition. The Blues lined up with three at the back, Panzo alongside his fellow England Under-17 World Cup winner Marc Guehi and Joseph Colley with Jamie Cumming in goal.

Cole Dasilva and Castillo were handed the wing-back roles, while George McEachran, McCormick and Gallagher started in central midfield. Redan was supported in attack by St Clair and the latter fired our first effort at goal after three minutes narrowly wide of the far post.

Both sides were already assured of the top two positions in Group C and it was the visitors challenged to take the initiative as they required a better result than our 3-1 win in Madrid in order to leapfrog us into finishing as group winners. Topping the group brought with it a direct passage to the last-16, while the runners-up would face an away play-off against a side progressing from the domestic champions pathway.

The encounter in the Spanish capital had been an open contest with chances frequently created by both sides, although the Blues were hopeful of a less expansive game on home soil. McEachran did well to make a block at the back post after Eduardo Viana Campuzano had rolled the ball across the face of goal towards Salomon, before Adrian Ferreras Garcis volleyed over after collecting Dasilva’s headed clearance from the subsequent corner.

Down the other end, goalkeeper Alex Dos Santos made a crucial tackle to toe the ball away from the advancing Redan after the Dutchman had been supplied by Dasilva’s crisp forward pass. With both teams operating wing-back systems, there was plenty of width utilised in the opening exchanges. Castillo got his body in the way of Juan Aguero’s strike before Salomon spurned a great chance, rolling the ball wide after an incisive pass from midfield.

Edwards’s side acknowledged the warning signs and St Clair continued to offer their biggest threat in the final third. The forward was inches away from opening the scoring as he collected the ball on the left touchline and skipped past three defenders on a jinking run, though his finish flew just over the angle of post and crossbar.

The deadlock was soon broken as the young Blues netted twice in five minutes to establish a commanding advantage. St Clair (pictured above) proved instrumental in the opener, worrying defenders with his pace and quick feet before being taken down in the box by two Atletico men. The Danish referee shook his head but his linesman had seen the full picture and signalled for a penalty, which St Clair confidently tucked in for his first goal of the season.

Our Scottish youth international then turned provider moments later. Standing over a free-kick on the left, he found Castillo in the box with a smart quick pass and the 17-year-old’s right-footed shot took a hefty deflection and looped up over Dos Santos into the back of the net.

The deficit left the Spaniards deflated and their only notable chance in the remainder of the half was a free-kick from Aguero bent high over Cumming’s goal. Guehi over-hit a cross after an adventurous run forward but there was no questioning the accuracy of the right-sided delivery from Redan moments later. The striker spun into space and cut the ball back invitingly for McCormick, with the skipper’s finish low, hard and decisive.

Atletico enjoyed plenty of possession after the restart but lacked the tools to hurt Chelsea and Cumming remained largely untroubled in the home goal as Aguero’s wayward effort flew off-target early in the second period.

McCormick continued to cause a nuisance in the opposition 18-yard box and his knockdown fell kindly for St Clair, whose acrobatic overhead kick failed to test Dos Santos. The visiting goalkeeper was unable to keep the deficit at three for long though as Castillo notched his second goal of the afternoon, the Dutch wideman benefiting from his wing-back partner Dasilva’s good work and dispatching the latter’s low centre at the far post.

Los Rojiblancos briefly rallied in search of a consolation midway through the half as Aguero’s deflected effort dropped narrowly wide and then Ferreras Garcia connected to a right-sided corner but the ball fell nicely for Cumming to grasp.

Redan advances to cause more problems for Atletico defenders. Picture courtesy of Mark Sandom.

The contest opened up in the final 15 minutes and there were opportunities for further goals for both sides. Castillo saw a low drive spilled by Dos Santos before St Clair smashed a shot just wide having been teed up by Dasilva. A late flurry of activity brought a conclusion to the action as substitute Tino Anjorin’s shot cleared off the line was sandwiched between two goals for the visitors.

Alberto Salido pulled one back with two minutes of normal time remaining, a neat one-two with Joaquin Munoz finished superbly beyond Cumming, before Ferreras Garcia’s well-hit strike from 20 yards out beat the Blues keeper less than a minute later after the hosts were caught on the break following Anjorin’s opportunity.

Despite some disappointment at conceding late on, this was ultimately an afternoon of satisfaction for Edwards and his young players, who join Basel, Barcelona, Liverpool and Manchester City as confirmed contenders in the last-16.

Edwards now takes his development squad to Buckinghamshire tomorrow evening (Wednesday) in the Checkatrade Trophy knockout round. The contest with MK Dons kicks off at 7.45pm and supporters can purchase tickets on the door priced at £5. Chelsea TV will also screen the game live.

 

Chelsea (3-5-1-1) Jamie Cumming; Joseph Colley, Marc Guehi, Jon Panzo; Cole Dasilva, Luke McCormick, Conor Gallagher (Tariq Uwakwe 63), Juan Castillo; George McEachran (Billy Gilmour 55); Harvey St Clair (Tino Anjorin 80); Daishawn Redan
Unused subs Charlie Brown, Nicolas Tie, Marcel Lavinier, Tariq Lamptey
Scorers St Clair (pen) 25; Castillo 30, 59; McCormick 43
Booked Gilmour 76

Atletico Madrid (5-4-1) Alex Dos Santos; Eduardo Viana Campuzano, Aitor Punal, Oscar Castro Dorta, Francisco Montero (Joaquin Munoz h/t), Fernando Gastanaga; Juan Aguero (Andy 74), Adrian Ferreras Garcia, Mikel Carro (c), Salomon (Alberto Salido 58); Giovanni Navarro
Unused subs Alejandro Herrero Linares, Carlos Isaac, Jose Carlos Aliaga, Alberto Ramos Campos-Cosio
Scorers Salido 87; Ferreras Garcia 88
Booked Montero 29

Referee Jens Maae (DEN)